Friday, February 27, 2009

Gettin My Ash On

On Ash Wednesday I ended up attending my church’s Spanish mass at noon because the English mass was at 8 a.m. (be serious). I sat there for an hour trying to follow along, wondering how it’s possible that I took Spanish for nine years and the only words I understood were Jesu Christo.

There were two priests doling out ashes that day. When I saw people in my line walking back with undefined round dots in their forehead, I jumped lines. That’s right. I’m a sacramental line-jumper. As the possessor of a fivehead, I have a substantial canvas to work with and the smaller the dot, the larger it looks. I needed someone with some spatial proportion consideration. Also, I have a pronounced forehead vein to contend with and Ash Wednesday is the only day that it gets to travel under the cover of darkness.

When I got home I looked at my cross in the mirror and saw that the priest had undercompensated on one side. Moreover, he didn’t really follow-through on the downstroke either. It looked like I had an “L” on my forehead, which is probably what I deserved. It could’ve been worse. At least I didn’t have to take my work ID photo on Ash Wednesday this time. But it certainly wasn’t the Immaculate Cross of 2008, the likes of which we will probably never see again. That year I had people stopping me on the street to compliment me on my cross. One fellow Catholic I walked past turned to their friend and said, “See, now that’s a cross.” For 12 hours that day, my forehead -- usually the subject of ridicule -- knew what it was to be special. I felt like one of those handicapped kids that gets one day to dress up in designer clothes, meet their favorite rock star and get a spa treatment at Elizabeth Arden.

But back to 2009: My forehead was a bit itchy (I forgot to moisturize that morning) but I was determined not to mess with God's work. Instead of scratching my forehead, I spent the afternoon stabbing at the itch with my longest fingernail. Then I realized my internet was down and wound up having a particularly harrowing phone conversation with Time Warner, during which I absentmindedly ran the back of my hand over my forehead several times. The results were not pretty. No longer content to remain confined in an "L", the ashes had pilgrimaged across my forehead in search of the Promised Land. This also happened to be the night of Jessica's birthday drinks. When my forehead and I arrived at the bar, the dim lights further confused matters.

“Oh my gosh, Noelle, is that a bruise?!” people exclaimed. “What happened to your head?”

After several hours and glasses of wine (I know, but if you factor in the Holy Trinity, I was drinking for four), I said my farewells. By the time I got home this is what my forehead was left with: the cloud monster from Lost. In case you were wondering where it’s been this season.


Anonymous said...


there is a smear on your face in that picture

MIke said...

I have to admit I had a short gasp when this picture came up. I thought you had a run in with Chris Brown.

I sympathize with your ash issues. You'd think by now people would stop telling us to wipe the dirt off our foreheads. I don't see people going after someone's bindi with a baby wipe!

Kelley said...

I may or may not be cyber stalking you - and I may or may not have mentioned you in my blog today :-)

ashley morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ashley morgan said...

Just found your blog, and you are seriously cracking me up. If it weren't for that claw thing, I'd wanna be friends. Oh, what the hell, I'm bookmarking you.

Anonymous said...

At least you bothered to get ashes on Ash Wednesday. I haven't been to Mass (or Confession) since last summer. I know, I know....

I belong to St. Augustine's in Culver City, a nice, modest, gray Gothic church built around 1950. The parish began much earlier, in the 1870's, as a satellite to St. Monica's in nearby Santa Monica.

FYI, St. Augustine was St. Monica's son, but I bet you already knew that, Noelle!

St. Augustine's is right across from Sony-TriStar-Columbia Studios, for many decades the home of M-G-M. My mind often drifts during Mass as I think about some of those great movies I watch on TCM that were made right across the street!

I grew up in Berwyn, a Chicago suburb. I attended St. Leonard's grammar school and Fenwick, a Dominican boys high school in neighboring Oak Park. That was in the days when nuns and priests could whack any kid they wanted -- and often did!

But I liked the Catholic Church, going to Mass, going to Communion, and even going to Confession -- at least until I began going steady in high school....

My girl friend was the unthinkable, a "non-Catholic," as we called everyone who wasn't. She was a beautiful blond. Her parents were from Prague. She resembled Joanna Krupa, who appears on Red Eye sometimes.

How I wish I was dating a nice, Catholic girl like you, Noelle! Tell me, do you wear a chastity belt?

Your buddy,

George Spink
Los Angeles